Friday 31 January 2020


"Britain is the most corrupt country in the world.” 

Roberto Saviano, anti-Mafia lawyer

“The UK is the world’s greatest enabler of corporate tax avoidance and has done the most to break down the global corporate tax system, accounting for over a third of the world’s corporate tax avoidance.” The Guardian

“Tax havens allow big companies and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax. This hurts people in countries where the taxes should have been paid – often hitting vulnerable people the hardest. Governments that let this happen, through devious tax rates, dodgy schemes and opaque processes, are complicit in a system that makes the rich richer and keeps millions in poverty” Oxfam

The Boris Johnson post-Brexit UK government is accelerating all this. They are working to introduce sweeping tax cuts for corporations and the rich and favourable tax regimes for multi-nationals, the weakening of internationsal anti-money laindering measures and the encouragement of ‘golden visa arrangements’ for international oligarchs.

This is taking place at a time when The European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs. Pierre Moscovici, has declared that: “The current rules for corporate taxation no longer fit the modern context … the tools for ensuring fair tax competition within the EU have reached their limits’.

The EU have begun to introduce new common tax regulations which aim to prevent the erosion of taxable bases in EU countries. 

Our government are not going to mention any of this as they ‘Get Brexit Done.”

Who will be cracking open the champagne tonight?

Thursday 30 January 2020

toasted avocados

Dear Jonny,


HAPPY BIRTHDAY for 30 July 2020 

Your 40th year

My birthday gift is a recipe for toasted avocados.  


TOASTED AVOCADO for two people

Ingredients: Two avocados, one lemon, chilli flakes, garlic salt, black pepper, olive oil.

Method: Cut the avocados in half and remove stones. Scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Squeeze in the lemon juice and mash with a fork. Season to taste with garlic salt, black pepper and chilli flakes. Toast two slices of bread, drizzle over the oil, pile the avocado on top and serve immediately.

Four months into Covid-19 lockdown, I think a lot about food and have started writing a new book on :"Food and Memory". Writing this one for you gave me the idea. 


So I have BURRITOS which will be what Anne brought me evey day in hospital, LAMB ON THE SPIT, Croatia and Bosnia, PITTA BREAD, memories of Tuvia Gelblum, VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE, visits to art dealer Gustav Delbanco and more to follow. My publishers, Unbound, are interested so I must get on with it!

Each chapter opens with a recipe as does this birthday greeting for you.


Last week’s Oddbox delivery of fruit and veg included four small avocados. According to the supplier’s leaflet, avocados are packed with mono-unsaturated fat that is good for the heart. I have no idea what a mono-unsaturated fat is, but after my heart operation and stroke, I’m a sucker for anything I’m told that’s good for me.

These avocados were hard. To speed the process of ripening, I put them in the east-facing window to absorb the morning sun. Later, I moved them to the other end of the flat, to place them on the west-facing window. It was a sunny day so we had avocado salad that evening.

The avocado is a single seed fruit that originated in Mexico. The Aztecs called it āhuacatl which translates as ‘testicle’. Perhaps that is because of its texture, shape and size, not to mention that they hang in pairs.

It was the favourite food of 16th century Aztec Emperor, Montezuma II. He fathered an enormous family with his many wives and concubines, so perhaps he liked avocados for their supposed aphrodisiac qualities. It was unlikely to have been their taste which, without a good dressing, is bitter and earthy, perhaps even testicular.

In the John Dos Passos trilogy, USA, he recounts a sea journey transporting avocados from South America to California. En route his protagonist went hungry rather than eat the fruit. In Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood can’t stop eating them, not because she likes the taste, but because their consumption evokes memory.


I have an avocado memory. Do you remember you, me and Maria eating brunch at Rabbithole (I may be wrong about the name) a cafe on Bedford Avenue and a five minute walk from your apartment beside the Williamsburg bridge? I ordered avocado toast. It was delicious.

I have no idea how past generations in our family thought about their food or what memories they evoked. They won’t have had avocado memories because they were only introduced to the UK in the late 1960s.


We learn something of their memories from personal mementoes passed down through the generations. Before photography, and for the rich, it might have been a Thomas Gainsborough or Joshua Reynolds portrait. For the middle class a mini-portrait carried around in a locket. For the rest of us perhaps a piece of hair.

With photography came the family album. Your aunts, Liz and Joanna, and I still have some of these albums.

In this digital age we keep photos on our iPhones, although our departed loved one are still printed out, framed and placed on the bookshelf alongside those of our living loved ones. 


After ten years, this NYC photo of you and me is still on my phone. I think that is the Brooklyn bridge behind us. Was it taken in 2008, the year Obama was elected President? I'm drinking a bottle of Brooklyn Pilsner and you, I think, Coke through a straw. Your ‘Papel de Fumar’ T shirt reminds me of the rollies we smoked together.

Are you still a smoker? You have been in Spain for ten years now. Your son is now six. Does he look like you? Perhaps a mixture of you and Maria.

Does she eat avocados? She's not Aztec, but I think, Mayan. I can't remember whether either of you joined me to eat the avocado toast at that Williamsburg cafe and don’t think she was there when this photo was taken. I have no photos of my daughter-in-law which is sad. Only one of Rhys.

We tend to associate the feeling of grief with death. When a relative or friend dies we must come to terms with their departure, their ‘not being’. If religious we may accept their ‘passing’, even envy their departure, on their journey to heaven, Nirvana, to a further existence. If not religious, we will come to accept that they are no longer in this material world. Whatever our beliefs, our grief at their loss will weaken and diminish with the passing of time.

But grief can apply to the living and can be worse than grief for the dead. Our thoughts at the absence of someone who is still alive, but has removed themselves or been removed from our lives, cannot be diminished with celestial thoughts, cannot be ‘got over’ with the passing of time.

I have read about people who have lost loved ones to cults, removing themselves into a parallel universe. An act of disappearance that leaves the abandoned grieving for their living dead.

This doesn’t just apply to cults, but to those who have lost a loved one to an unstoppable silence. 


You may have good reasons for your 'unstoppable silence', but I would like to know what they are. On this day, your 40th birthday, I would also love to hear how life is going for the three of you.  I hope all is good and positive. 

You and I were like brothers. You supported me in the raging battles of separation and divorce and when you were struggling, at the time this NYC photo was taken, I helped you.

Your last communication to me, nearly six years ago, acknowledged this when you spoke of your love for me. “I just wanted to write to you to say that I love you and also to say that there really isn't an issue between you and me.”

Do you remember those parties you and your friends organised on Brooklyn rooftops. Swimming in the pool behind your apartment in New Orleans. After you moved to Barcelona, it was table tennis?

There are two tables in our nearby park and, when I walk there, I remember that we played every day in Passeig de Gràcia and in Park Quell. One eye on the game, the other on your dog Whitney. Is she still alive?

I have birthday and Christmas presents piling up for my grandson, but have no address to send them to. I buy them anyway and store them in a cupboard. Maybe when Rhys is twenty he will get the picture book about dogs and the card with a glittering ‘Two’.

Family and friends have advised me not to send Christmas or birthday presents to you or Rhys, even if I had your address. That I should, like you, go to earth. To lead my life to the full and not let the situation get to me.


But today I cannot let the it pass without at least attempting to reach out to you.  To tell you I think of you every day. To let you know that you are my son; that I love you.

I hope you are leading your life to the full, but given my age and precarious medical condition I’m not sure I can act on this advice. I face a finite limit to acceptance that time is on my side. I cannot lead my life to the full. You are the missing piece in my life’s jigsaw puzzle. 


Memory never goes missing and I spend a lot of my time looking at photos which are always there to see. Here you are with Ben. I guess you, here, are at the age Rhys is today.



It is another sunny day and we have had a new vegetable delivery. There are avocados again. They are soft and ready to eat. I must mix the dressing.


Much love to you all,


David xxx



Friday 24 January 2020


I recently watched the BBC4 film about Jewish survivors from the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp in northern Germany. 


Between 1943 and 1945 52,000 inmates perished there and 20,000 Russian POWs. It was where Anne Frank died.


We heard from Peter Lantos, Zdenka Fatlova, Maurice Blik, Mala Tribich, Anita Lasker-Walfisch, Geria Turgeb. It seems to me important to name the few still living since we cannot name the many who died.


The camp was liberated by British - Canadian troops and I watched the film. wondering if I would see my father. He was one of the British army doctors who arrived there on 15 April 1945. I remember he told me that thousands died after they arrived, many from typhus, TB and dysentry, then many more from being fed high calorie rations too quickly. As a physician, he felt a guilt and responsibility for this terrible failure.


When he was an old man I asked him what had happened to the photos he had kept of the emaciated survivors. He told me that he had thrown them away. I was shocked because he had documented the reality of fascism, but knowing the man, perhaps he wanted to remove the memory altogether. When I was a small boy I used to take them from the bottom drawer of his his desk, spread them on the floor and stare at these skeletal humans in horror.


I have spent my life affected by those photographs of bones breaking through parchment skin, eyes bulging from their sockets, a pleading despair. 


I have never thrown away any of that and have honoured their memory as an active socialist and anti-racist.


It is popular to say ‘Never Again’, but this is just a hope and genocides have continued in one form or another throughout my life. To those two words we must add two more that demand our action. Taken from the fight against fascism in Franco's Spain they are, No Pasarán.


Wednesday 22 January 2020

The four horsemen

This is a condensed version taken from articles I have had published in recent years. I think it addresses issues which are sadly blocking the road to a better future – perhaps any future.

In recent days US Vice President Mike Pence and Sec of State, Mike Pompeo, have been urging Trump to attack Iran. Both of them are supported by the Christian-Zionist movement who can’t wait for a Biblical Armageddon in the Middle East.

In this country we have a Prime Minister who is happy to be the fourth horseman of the Apocalypse and many in the Labour Party too ready to clamber up behind him .

The Labour Party will soon be choosing a new leader and, surprise surprise, accusations of anti-semitism are once again being used against those who dare criticise Israel and who speak out for the rights of Palestinians.

After claiming that Jeremy Corbyn scored 0 out of 10 as party leader Emily Thornberry said, “We need to get down on our hands and knees to the Jewish community and ask them for forgiveness and a fresh start.” On BBC Question time Clive Lewis ‘apologised’ for Labour’s ‘anti-semitism’.

Leading party leader contender, Rebecca Long-Bailey better be among the first to get on her knees and ask forgiveness after former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson said she was was the candidate he "would worry about" adding, “she's the continuity candidate, she stands for Corbynism in its purest sense.” He went on to criticise her for not joining Labour Friends of Israel.

And forgiveness for what?

Perhaps forgiveness for agreeing posthumously with Albert Einstein who wrote:“The (Israeli) state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and a narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad.”  Or with Sigmund Freud who said, “I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives,” Perhaps also for agreeing with Erich Fromm: “The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse,” or with Primo Levi, writer and Auschwitz survivor: "Everyone has their Jews. For the Israelis they are the Palestinians." Perhaps we should also seek forgiveness on behalf of Marek Edelman, last surviving leader of the 1943 Warsaw uprising: who wrote a letter in support of the Palestine resistance, comparing them to ZOB, the Jewish fighters in Warsaw. He opened with, "Commanders of the Palestine military, paramilitary and partisan operations - to all the soldiers of the Palestine fighting organisations,” And there is of course Hannah Arendt who wrote, The trouble is that Zionism has often thought and said that the evil of antisemitism was necessary for the good of the Jewish people. In the words of a well-known Zionist in a letter to me discussing the original Zionist argumentation: 'The antisemites want to get rid of the Jews, the Jewish State wants to receive them, a perfect match,'” Finally a voice from the living, Noam Chomsky: “In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid.”

It has now reached the level of absurdity when these giants of our political history are ignored or maligned and the rest of us must bend the knee before criticising Israel.

My father was one of the first Allied doctors to enter Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The photos he took there, and later showed me of the skeletal prisoners, scarred my young mind. It was those haunting pictures that led me to a lifetime of anti-fascism.

At sixteen I had my first contact with real anti-semites. One Saturday morning in Bromley High Street, thugs from the British Movement, forerunners of Tommy Robinson's Britain First, and shouting “You bloody Yids”, beat me up for selling Peace News. I discovered the headquarters of the Zionist Federation and they gave me Star of David badges. The following Saturday I, and a fellow pacifist wore these badges and were beaten up again.

As a member of the Anti-Nazi League in the 70s, I helped set up a support and defence group in North West London for Asian shopkeepers attacked by the National Front.

I consider that I am in the proud tradition of anti-fascists, both Jews and non-Jews, many of whom were or, like Chomsky, are anti-Zionists.

Amongst the first Jews who opposed Zionism were those who set up the Jewish Bund in Poland and Russia. They stressed the principles of socialism, secularism, Yiddish and doyikayt or “localness.” Doyikayt was encapsulated in the Bund slogan: “There, where we live, that is our country.” “We Bundists”, wrote one of their early leaders, Viktor Alter, “wish to shatter the existing economic frameworks and show the Jewish masses how a new society can be built not by escape, but by struggle. We link the essence of the Jewish masses’ life to that of humankind.”

Their contemporaries in this country can be found in Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Voice for Labour and others.

Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, takes place in 1692 during the Salem witch trials. It tells the story of a group of women who accuse other villagers of witchcraft. The play was written as an allegory during the McCarthy years and the House of Un-American Activities trials in the 1950s. To be accused of being a member of the Communist Part then ensured that jobs, reputations and, for some, their lives, were lost.

It mattered little whether the accusations were true or not. It mattered even less that membership of the CP at that time was evidence of radical political consciousness and not criminal inclination.

Our Salem trials are an attempt to mask the real anti-semitism that has always been at the heart of the British political Establishment.

It started with poor Jeremy. “Now, within living memory of the Holocaust, and while Jews are being murdered elsewhere in Europe for being Jews, we have an anti-Semite as the leader of the Labour Party” declared the Chief Rabbi. He ommitted to add that one of those countries where anti-semitism was now rampant is Victor Orban’s Hungary. The same Orban who was an honoured guest of the Netanyahu Israeli government.

In our own country, the pro-Israel Middle East Forum funded fascist Tommy Robinson while he was in prison. In the words of their Director, Gregg Roman, who has worked in Israel’s Defence and Foreign Ministries, “we are helping Robinson in his moment of danger in three main ways ... to fund his legal defence … bringing foreign pressure on the UK government to ensure Mr. Robinson’s safety and eventual release …” NOTE: Robinson has recently joined the Tory Party!

Let us take a closer look at the ancestry of Zionism. Their founder, Theodor Herzl, an admirer of the British Empire wrote to Cecil Rhodes, who gave his name to the white settler colony Rhodesia, about his passion for a Jewish state in the Middle East, “You are being invited to help make history … it does not involve Africa but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen but Jews … I turn to you … because it is something colonial ..”

Chaim Weizmann, who suceeded Herzl, wrote to the Manchester Guardian: “Should Palestine fall within the British sphere of influence and should they encourage Jewish settlement … we could develop the country, bring back civilisation and form a very effective guard for the Suez Canal.”

Back to those Chrisian Evangelicals, Iran and the Middle East. Prayers at the opening of the US Israeli Embassy in Jerusalem, were delivered by Robert Jeffries, a Dallas megachurch pastor who said Hitler was sent by God to drive the Jews to their ancestral land. A busy God who, Jeffries assures us, was also standing over the shoulder of Donald Trump and those horsemen.

A lifetime of anti-fascism and anti-racism makes me also anti-Zionist. If I was being beaten up today by those fascists in Bromley Hight Street chances are that they and not me would be wearing Star of David badges.

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Vive Ken Livingstone

I went to a talk this morning given by Ken Livingstone and organised by the indomitable director of Hampstead’s Pentameter Theatre, Léonie Scott-Matthews.

Ken read from his book, Livingstone’s London.’

It was good to hear his memories of being brought up in London (he and I were born the same year). Ken in Streatham and me further south in leafier Bromley. I have written about him before and like and respect the man enormously.


He has a “Pink Hat” - (OK let me repeat. My father said you can always tell who is the honest politician, ‘the one wearing the pink hat’.)


When he was leader of the GLC, Margaret Thatcher accused Ken of introducing aneastern European” style “tyranny”, for crimes such as lowering bus fares and organising anti-racist celebrations. More recently he has, with Jeremy Corbyn, been a victim of the right-wing ‘anti-semitism’ vilification.


That right-wing, as now represented by the current PM and politicians such as Jacob Rees-Mogg. Ugly hatted, but certainly not pink, with company accounts showing more than £100 million untaxed profit over the last 5 years.


There was a lot of discussion about the Labour Party leadership election and I am puzzled why he supports Keir Starmer on the basis that he is a good ‘administrator’ and is 'someone who looks like they can run the country'.


When discussion turned to whether Labour could win an election in five years I mentioned that the French haven’t waited and have been on virtual general strike for many weeks; that last week Macron, the French President, was driven out of a theatre onto streets occupied by striking ballet dancers.





So in conclusion Vive La France and Vive Ken Livingstone. La lutte continue.


My memoir ‘Left Field’ is, after four years, still on sale online and in bookshops, but can now be read for free here